Deadline to Register Party Lists

Next Tuesday marks the deadline when parties must submit their final lists to the Israel Elections Committee, and a few major mergers are in the cards on both sides of Israeli political map. As voters tend to flock to the two larger parties on election day, Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz both fear smaller parties on their respective ends of the political spectrum will fail to reach the threshold and make their path to forming a government, or in Netanyahu’s case obtaining legal immunity – virtually impossible

On the right, Benjamin Netanyahu is in talks to form a unified right-wing party, which would include the Likud and all parties to its right Netanyahu insisted on representing the full right-wing bloc of 55 in coalition negotiations after September elections; this prospective united ticket would be a party with a similar composition: the Likud, the New Right, the Union of Right-Wing Parties (including the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit), and two Ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism.

On the left, a major merger is possible but less likely, and here the major player is Labor head Amir Peretz. The Labor leader made a controversial decision in the last election by joining forces with Orly Levy, the former Yisrael Beiteinu lawmaker with a social welfare agenda. Peretz hoped he would make inroads in periphery communities and among “soft-right” voters, but the results were not as good as he initially expected. He must now decide whether to join up with Meretz and the Israel Democratic Party, a decision that Orly Levy would likely veto or leave the joint ticket over. The concern here, as on the right, is that both Labor and Meretz parties are treading just over the 3.25 percent threshold and if either party were to fail, it would greatly increase Netanyahu’s chance of securing the majority he needs for obtaining immunity and forming a coalition. One idea that has been floated around is for Orly Levy to join the male-dominated Kachol Lavan, which would allow Amir Peretz and Labor to join up with Meretz, Democratic Israel, and Stav Shaffir’s Green Movement, creating a left-wing alliance that should win at least 10 seats.

Netanyahu’s fate tied to Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon

Netanyahu hopes his immunity request will be delayed until after the March elections. Knesset Legal Advisor Eyal Yinon is expected to publish his opinion on whether or not the Knesset will be able to discuss Netanyahu’s request for immunity before March elections. In order to deal with the request, the Knesset must form a House Committee. Should the House Committee be formed, Netanyahu is unlikely to have an immunity vote pass as Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party has come out against the prime minister, tipping the balance of the committee’s membership. Moreover, Yinon will need to decide whether Yuli Edelstein, Knesset speaker, will be able to prevent the process from moving forward during a transitional government. Reports indicate that Yinon could publish his opinion as early as Sunday.

Naftali Bennett Advancing Annexation

While all eyes are focused on elections, Naftali Bennett is utilizing what is likely his last few months as defense minister to move forward with West Bank annexation. This past week he announced the creation of a task force to strengthen the Israeli presence in the West Bank (notably, a Knesset commission to oversee Jordan Valley annexation was canceled recently after the International Criminal Court considered a probe into Israeli actions in the West Bank). Bennett’s plans include legalizing unauthorized outposts and allowing Israelis to purchase land in the West Bank. Bennett made the announcement saying, “We are launching a campaign for the future of Area C; it started a month ago and I’m announcing it here today […] the State of Israel’s policy is that the land in Area C belongs to [Israel].” The odds of Bennett accomplishing much during a period where a transitional government is in power are unlikely, but the New Right MK’s rhetoric could help keep annexation in the mainstream right-wing political discourse throughout the campaign.